Children, parents and families will start enjoying the benefit of our radical new approach to child care from September. An additional €19 million will be available to an estimated 70,000 children. This is a first big step, one from which there can be no row back.
All children aged between six and 36 months, or until they are eligible for the free preschool scheme, will be eligible for some level of support totalling approximately €1,040 per annum. In addition, there will be targeted child care supports for those who need it most. In particular, I want to offer support to parents who cannot take up work, training or education because they cannot afford child care. However, changing one of the world’s most expensive child care systems into the best system is not easy.
Our goals are ambitious, as they must be if we are to deliver genuine affordable accessible quality child care.
Despite the changes in September, some of which I referred to in regard to the affordable child care scheme, there are still challenges to delivery of the new scheme. Developing the high-tech part of our new approach is not easy. As well as technical issues, there are data protection and other legal requirements which must be met. The systems we are building now will last generations. We simply cannot afford to get this wrong. Strong progress is being made and I will update Deputies as we progress.
When it comes to our children there can be no compromise on safety. Parents must be assured that their children are being cared for in a safe environment. For this reason, the financial supports on offer can only go to those providers where quality is assured. The affordable child care scheme will be delivered through Tusla-registered providers, centre-based or childminders. A report has been requested from an expert group on how the childminding sector can be developed to meet appropriate quality standards. This report will inform future policy.
I acknowledge Deputies' support and their input. I hope I will continue to have their support as I seek more child care funding in budget 2018.